Stafford Leader

Southern Field Hockey Still Solid Despite Graduation Losses

Sep 08, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy Southern senior Kait Conroy.

Heading into last season, it was uncertain how well the Southern Regional field hockey team would fare following the loss of a boatload of seniors. The Rams ended up contending for the Shore Conference Class A South championship and reached the NJSIA South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals before bowing out against Clearview, finishing 12-5-1 – not bad for a team going through a sort of rebuilding season.

Well, this fall, the Rams aren’t in quite the shape they were in at this time a year ago. Sure, coach Jenna Lombardo’s squad lost a lot of seniors – 15 of them, to be exact – but only five were starters, so there weren’t as many positions to fill heading into the preseason.

“We have a lot of starters and subs from last year who will be leading the way this season,” Lombardo said. “And we have many younger girls who have stepped up into varsity spots and have been great surprises.”

Lombardo isn’t one to tout her team before she knows, for certain, whether they’re all they’re cracked up to be, but somebody has to say it: the Rams are going to be good, again. Of course, within the A South division, Shore Conference and South Jersey Group IV, there’s a fine line between good and great, so it really is up in the air how well this crop of Rams will fare.

“Toms River North, Jackson Memorial and Toms River South all have good programs,” Lombardo said. “Our division is tough, a lot tougher than most people think it is. It’s always a battle for the top spots in our division.”

However, with much of its starting crew at midfield returning, including seniors Kait Conroy and Brooke Little and sophomore Maitland Demand, Southern should be able to generate some offense this fall.

Also returning to the squad are senior forward Samantha Minafo and junior forward Alexis Maul, both of whom had solid campaigns in 2016, as well as senior goaltender Maddie Leyh, who primarily was the backup to Kaitlyn Spachak last fall but logged some quality minutes in front of the goal cage. Junior Ruby Ramales, sophomore Emily Raylman and senior Delaney Rechenberg, along with sophomore midfielder Erik Barbera, may boost the offense this fall.

The big question mark for the Rams is how the defense will hold up. Losing Lauryn Flynn and Holly Essinger to graduation in June were big blows to Southern’s back end. But with junior Emma Wilhelm at the heart of the defense, Lombardo is confident.

“Emma’s a really good player and we really need her everywhere,” Lombardo said, half-jokingly. “We have a lot of big shoes to fill on defense, but Emma’s doing a great job back there. Having her back there makes a difference for us.”

Wilhelm this season will be joined by seniors Ashley Garcia and Yumara Hernandez, as well as sophomore Priscilla Nicolini. The rest of the squad includes seniors Caitlin Behr, Melissa Carleen, Caitlyn Liu, Sarah Mickiewicz and Arielle Schobel, and juniors Maggie Brummer and Jessica Caiazzo.

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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